Book Review: The Giver

The_Giver_CoverAuthor: Lois Lowry

Hardcover: 192 pages

Publisher: Laurel Leaf

ISBN-10: 0440237688
ISBN-13: 978-0440237686

In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy. With echoes of Brave New World, in this 1994 Newbery Medal winner, Lowry examines the idea that people might freely choose to give up their humanity in order to create a more stable society. Gradually Jonas learns just how costly this ordered and pain-free society can be, and boldly decides he cannot pay the price.

Yes. I’m enormously late to the party on this one. The Giver was first published in 1993 and won its Newbery Medal in the following year. I’ve even noticed it taught in schools throughout the years, but have always managed to avoid it. You see, I judged this book by its cover, and I judged it hard. Nothing could deter me more from reading this than an old man and a Newbery Medal.

Like books, I’m one of those people who hears Oscar buzz and immediately mentally tosses the mentioned movie into my “later” pile. It must be a syndrome, because I do generally like Oscar winning movies. I treat books the same way, especially if a school likes it enough to add it to their curriculum. It’s a habit I’ve worked hard to break with book clubs and such, but this one continued to fall through the cracks until news of the movie started creeping out.

Nothing gets me fired up about a book than seeing the movie adaptation start to take shape. It also helped that a well loved copy of The Giver was on a swap table at my kids school and I was able to grab it for basically free. I am a person who loves to read the book before the movie, though I do like to leave enough time between so that I can attempt to appreciate them as separate entities.

If you’ve been avoiding The Giver for any reason, I assure you that you are doing yourself a disservice. It is a fabulous book about life after society is completely and totally overhauled by the government creating a utopia that is only surface deep, and wouldn’t you know, it is (shocker) completely deserving of its Newbery Medal.

The characters and dialogue are engaging. The thought put into the society is brilliant, and yeah all middle and high school kids should read it (sigh, I’m not completely hopeless, just late). It’s just a really great coming-of-age story set in a great futuristic dystopia, but the interaction between the main character Jonas who has been chosen to be the new Receiver of Memories for their society and the past Receiver (who is now The Giver) is like nothing I’ve ever read before.

The only issue that I had was when I got to the end of the book I really wanted it to keep going. So I’ll be looking into the rest of The Giver Series, Gathering Blue (2000), Messenger (2004), and Son (2012).

You can check here for our coverage on the movie, and since I’ve now read the book, it seems that not only will the story be pretty different, but the ending will be as well.

I give The Giver Five Out of Five Stars.




The Giver is available from Amazon! Here’s a link!

Jess Orso
Written by Jess Orso

Jess is the Managing Editor and Southern Correspondent for